Backpackers/trekkers tend to be drawn towards more challenging trips in lesser known mountain ranges as their experience grows – at least, that’s been my experience. However, this has to be reconciled with the need to fit said trip into the limitations of an annual holiday allowance.
So how do you find those more remote mountain routes, and to which of them do you commit your precious and all too short holiday resource?
Research is the key, and Google is your main tool. Lots of people do the most amazing treks, and thankfully many of them post their experiences and tips online. Here are five inspirational websites from people who most definitely seek out the remote and challenging.
I’ve always admired the audacity of many Eastern European travellers, trekkers and mountaineers. Hardy, thrifty and frequently contemptuous of rules, they manage to achieve great things against the odds. Tomas Tichovsky fits squarely into that mould, with an enviable list of hardcore treks around the world spanning several decades.
His website details wilderness backpacking trips in South and Central America, Russia and Central Asia, and the Karakoram and Himalaya ranges. With a climbing background, the treks he describes sometimes include an (optional) summit bid en route. Some of his trips even require technical skills just to cross the passes – but you can usually adapt the route to suit your skills or appetite for adventure.
Each of his trips is described primarily in the form of a photo gallery with detailed captions. The photography is excellent. There is a page devoted to travel specifics (including mapping) for some of the countries he’s visited, although these are often dated. No actual routes – in the form of a gpx file or even an annotated map – are provided. However, this is a truly inspirational site with a global flavour – just be prepared to search further for route details.
Jean-Claude Latombe is a Professor in Engineering at Stanford University. He is also an avid mountaineer and backpacker, and has a page on his website dedicated to this passion. You need to scroll down to find the trekking section, where there is a cornucopia of trips spanning twenty-odd years.
While there are descriptions of trips to most of the world’s mountain ranges, Professor Latombe has become something of a Central Asian specialist in recent times. Over the last decade, he has logged eight backpacking trips to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. All are interesting trips to remote destinations, and all are very much off the beaten track.
His trip descriptions are detailed, and include route details and maps. The bulk of each article is a photo gallery, and they are mouthwatering – you’ll be itching to get out there. A fantastic source of ideas for long and short treks in Central Asia, as I can personally attest after adapting some of his routes on my own trips to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
This is the website and blog of Micah Hanson, an Engineering PhD graduate who has spent six years traveling and trekking in Asia (what is it about Engineering that drives people to the mountains?). The website is evolving rapidly, and aims to be a portal for information for people interested in independent trekking, mainly in India and Nepal.
I found Micah’s website (in an earlier incarnation) while researching a trip to Ladakh, and I admired his penchant for including trekking peaks in his routes. It has sections devoted to India (Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and North East India), and Nepal. Within the sections are “what you can expect” descriptions of each trek, with links to commercially available mapping and trekking guides where appropriate. No maps or specific route details are provided.
This website has become essentially an online backpacking guide, and is an excellent way of getting a quick taste of a wide variety of trekking options throughout the Himalaya, specifically from the point of view of independent travel. Well worth a browse for trip ideas, ranging from days trips to multi-week adventures.
Want an overview of wilderness backpacking opportunities throughout the Himalaya? A flavour of the different regions? Then pay a visit to this website and browse. The Great Himalaya Trail cobbles together dozens of existing trails – some well known, some remote, some technical, some easy – to create a super-trail that runs for 4500km along the Himalaya from Nanga Parbat in Pakistan to Namche Barwa in Tibet.
In fact, there are two trails – high and a low altitude versions – and in reality there are multiple possible diversions along its length. Of course, you don’t have to do the whole thing (few people have) – you can cherry pick the bits that appeal to you most. The website gives specific day-by-day guidance on each of the separate routes that collectively form the GHT, including a photo gallery and a downloadable gpx file (very useful). There is also an overview of each area, and guidance on travel, permits and regulations in each region.
This is a fantastic resource if you are contemplating a trek in the Himalaya but are not sure where to go, as on the same site you can compare routes from many different regions. I thoroughly recommend you take a look.
I go green with envy when I visit the blog of Belgian backpackers Steve and Katrijn Behaeghel. Despite hiking for only a decade, they have already logged more adventurous trips than most people manage in a lifetime. To add insult to injury, the photography is superb.
They have trekked and climbed extensively in South America, particularly Patagonia (hence the name of the blog). They also describe trips to Greenland, Nepal, Pakistan, arctic Scandinavia and Canada. Makes me wonder what I’ve been doing with my life. Their blog entries describe their experiences in general terms, with little or no route descriptions or maps. If their photographs don’t want to make you get out there, you’re probably not into backpacking.
Alas, the site is not, in my opinion, well set up for finding the different trip descriptions. The best bet is to scroll right down to the bottom, and click the links in the left-hand column which will take you to individual blog posts. Sit back and gawp.
So there it is – five great sources of ideas for wilderness backpacking/trekking trips around the world. I hope that you enjoy them, even if only vicariously! How about you? Where do you find your inspiration for trekking routes?